Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure
The race to the Alagbaka Government House in Akure may have further heightened the internal crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State.
The party appears to be in disarray and efforts to settle the crisis by both the leadership of the party at both the state and national levels have not yielded any positive results.
Daily Sun gathered that the current crisis rocking the party may not be unconnected with the ambition of some leaders of the party to contest next year’s governorship election in the state. It has been established that two major factions exist in Ondo State chapter of the APC and the two factions parade array of political stalwarts interested in the governorship contest.
Leaders of the two factions are: Mr. Ade Adetimehin, the state chairman of the party recognised by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, and Mr. Isaac Kekemeke, the immediate past chairman of the party. While the Adetimehin’s group enjoys the backing of the state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, the other group is loyal to Senator Ajayi Borofice who represents Ondo North Senatorial District in the National Assembly.
The crisis, Daily Sun gathered, is traceable to the 2016 governorship primary election which produced Akeredolu against the wish of some members of the party led by Kekemeke who was alleged to be working for the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
While Kekemeke allegedly supported Mr. Olusola Oke who later defected from the APC to the Alliance for Democracy (AD), Adetimehin supported Akeredolu who eventually emerged the winner of the primary election and subsequently became the governor of the state.
Although, it was rumoured that Tinubu was in support of Dr. Olusegun Abraham who also contested the primary, some loyalists of Tinubu including the former governor of Osun State, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola and former Osun State Commissioner for Regional Integration, Mr. Bola
Ilori supported Oke.
In fact, Ilori served as the Director General of the Olusola Oke Campaign Organisation, an indication that Tinubu might also be in support of Oke’s ambition at the time.
However, Oke later contested the election on the platform of the AD and lost to Akeredolu of the APC, but later returned to the APC shortly after the election. He was appointed the Director General of the Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Organisation in the South West before the last presidential election and he coordinated the campaign of Buhari in the South West.
Although Buhari lost in Oke’s home state of Ondo due to what political observers attributed to internal wrangling in the party, he won in other states of the South West. The defeat of Buhari in Ondo State, observers also say, might be as a result of the defection of some loyalists of Governor Akeredolu to the Action Alliance (AA).
Many of them, including a senatorial candidate of the party and chairman, Governing Council of the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko, Dr. Tunji Abayomi defected to the AA. In fact, Abayomi, said to be a close friend of Akeredolu contested for the senatorial election on the platform of AA, though he lost to Senator Boroffice of the APC.
As a result of the development, Governor Akeredolu was alleged of anti-party activities, a development which earned him suspension from the party. The NWC of the party ordered the suspension of Akeredolu for alleged anti-party activities, though he denied the allegation and also claimed not to be aware of his suspension, insisting that he was not formally informed of the suspension by the party’s NWC.
The development in the party has no doubt widened the differences among members of the party, with different factions pledging their loyalty to their leaders. This is even as the interest and ambition of many of the party’s leaders are causing disaffection within the party.
Unarguably, the incumbent governor, Akeredolu is said to be interested in second term, so also some individuals in the party including Oke, Abraham and others are also rumoured to be interested in contesting the 2020 governorship election in the state.
While some members of the party in the state are in support of Akeredolu, it was learnt that some others including Kekemeke, Boroffice, Ilori and Alhaji Alli Olanusi, a former Deputy Governor of the state among other notable leaders are against Akeredolu and they are allegedly rooting for Oke.
Also, it was alleged that the national leader of the party, Tinubu was not in support of Akeredolu. He was said to be in support of Oke. However, it was gathered that Governor Akeredolu had been to the Lagos and Abuja residences of Tinubu to apologise to him for his past mistakes and solicited for his support.
An impeccable source informed that Akeredolu was led to the house of Tinubu by former National Vice Chairman of the party in the South West, Chief Pius Akinyelure.
In spite of Akeredolu’s efforts, findings revealed that the faction loyal to Governor Akeredolu claimed that Akeredolu remains the leader of the party in the state, while the other faction led by Senator Boroffice claimed that Akeredolu can no longer lead the party having been allegedly suspended by the NWC for alleged anti- party activities. This is even as some factional leaders of the party have continued to trade words over the suspension of Akeredolu from the party.
A notable factional leader of the party in the state, Ilori said the suspension of Akeredolu was occasioned by his pride, adding that he was the architect of his misfortune, having allegedly contributed to the abysmal performance of the party in the last presidential and National Assembly elections in the state.
However, the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Akeredolu on Special
Duties and Strategy, Dr. Doyin Odebowale attributed the crisis rocking the ruling APC in the state to the ambition of some politicians to succeed the governor, adding that the alleged suspension of Governor Akeredolu from the APC was occasioned by the ambition of some individuals within the party.
He said some individuals are determined to rule the state by all means, hence the attack against the government of Akeredolu, just as he alleged that some forces within the APC who are not comfortable with the style of Akeredolu are hell bent at pulling him down.
Odebowale said those accusing the governor of anti-party activities in the last general elections were the architects of anti-party in the state, stressing that the people of the state would determine who govern them and would not succumb to those who have the “expansionist agenda” to rule over territories outside their domains.
“Any true indigene, including some of us who hold an insurable interest in the progress of the state through an established degree of consanguinity and residency should work for her advancement. The people of Ondo State will be responsible for choosing their leaders. No foreign gods will be allowed to dictate to a land whose resources contributed immensely in the quest for the development and sustenance of the defunct Western Region. This point has been made consistently and repeatedly. They have left no one in doubt that they will do so again,” Odebowale said.
But Ilori said “Akeredolu’s vengeful and vindictive attitude is the cause of all the troubles in Ondo APC. Conscience is an open wound. It would be strange for a man that has become governor for years to still be bellyaching over an intra-party primary that preceded his tenure, if not for the fact that his conscience is never at rest with the open exposure of the fraud that lined his way to the Government House.
“It will be recalled that the party’s Appeal Panel annulled the primaries that produced Akeredolu due to glaring fraud. The NWC of the party never agreed to the emergence of Akeredolu but the Oyegun/Saraki conspiracy of the era unilaterally submitted the name of Akeredolu to INEC and subsequently mobilised huge funds for his ‘see and buy’ victory thereby imposing a ‘made-in-Abuja’ governor on Ondo State.
“Some of us could not stand such shenanigan led by Chief John Odigie-Oyegun. We followed the party’s internal mechanism, but it was unilaterally terminated by the then National Chairman. Subsequently, we left the party in the expression of our democratic rights on the platform of another party in agitation against the clear injustice. We lost the elections. It was reported on national headlines that the vindictive governor organised an attack on me at the venue of an official government assignment.
“We were to go to court, but some elders of the party led by Chief Bisi Akande, Asiwaju
Bola Tinubu, Chief Pius Akinyelure and so on intervened and appealed to us all to drop all further agitation and return to the party and embrace unity. The governor thereafter organised a unity rally and I attended.
“Chief Olusola Oke has since been working hard for the success of the party and was the South West Coordinator of the APC Presidential Campaign, while I, who was his Director General in the Alliance for Democracy was the Chairman of the APC Presidential Campaign Council
(Field Operations) Door to Door Campaign throughout the Country.
“Akeredolu’s anti-party activity would have been justifiable as a payback, were it to be that their mischiefs were directed against either Chief Olusola Oke or Bola Ilori, but neither of us was on the ballot but President Buhari and our National Assembly members. So it was a deliberate sabotage against the fortune of the party.
“I laugh at how, in their confusion and desperate search for justification, they misguide themselves with falsehood and hope it will turn to truth in an era of Google Search Engine. Let me put it on record; if they are too lazy to goggle, I was not holding any position in the party or government six months before and after the 2016 elections, contrary to their claims that I was in Osun government while in AD, Osun had no cabinet for about 16 months at the time. So, dragging Aregbesola into their justification of treachery is not only based on falsehood but pure mischief.
“I also wish to place on the record that, as the Director General of AD campaigns in 2016, I don’t have any record of funding received from Tinubu, Aregbesola or Boroffice for the AD. I dare Akeredolu and his team to come up with such fact. Let it be noted that neither Asiwaju Tinubu nor Aregbesola directed us to the AD nor funded the party. They did not campaign for the party to the best of my record also.
“If any of Akeredolu minions is in possession of substantive evidence against any of our leaders, let such fellow come forward with it or forever keep their peace. We as adults have rights to our independent actions and Asiwaju never encouraged sycophancy, he preaches love, peace and tolerance,” he added.
Reacting to the development, the party’s director of Media and Publicity, Mr. Steve Otaloro said “the governor is not by any way disturbed by recent happenings in the party. All his attention now is on how to leave Ondo State better than he met it. He is concentrating his attention on the overall development of the state and we are all in his support in his desire to transform the state.”